Degree requirements

Student Supervision

Advisor and Committees: An advisor, or major professor, from the Wildlife Biology faculty is assigned to the student at the time of admittance to the program. A dissertation committee should be formed no later than the second semester in residence. The committee will consist of the major professor as chair and a minimum of four other members. All graduate committees for Ph.D. candidates must include a majority of Wildlife Biology faculty with at least 1 faculty member from DBS and at least 1 faculty member from Forestry. Members of the committee must have attained a Ph.D. Exceptions require the approval of the Director of Wildlife Biology and the Dean of the Graduate School.

Following selection of the dissertation committee, the student and advisor will select a comprehensive examination committee. This committee may consist of the same individuals as the dissertation committee, but someone other than the major professor must serve as chair (the same committee restrictions apply).

After verbal agreement has been received from the prospective committee members, the major professor will submit the committee names to the Wildlife Biology Office. The Director of Wildlife Biology will review the names. If approved, the committee names will then be forwarded to the Graduate Dean who notifies the program of the committees’ appointment.

Degree Requirements

All students must be familiar with the requirements and procedures established by the UM Graduate School for their particular degree. 

The emphasis in a Ph.D. program is on the student’s professional development, stimulation of intellectual curiosity, and familiarity with science, and not on a specified set of courses. However, certain coursework requirements must be successfully completed:

The Ph.D. student must obtain a minimum of 60 graduate semester credits beyond the bachelor’s degree. A dissertation committee may require more depending on the student’s background for the proposed research program.

Of the 60 graduate semester credits, no more than 20 of these credits may be thesis credits.

  • Of the remaining credits, at least 20 must be numbered > 500. Specific courses will be determined by each student’s graduate committee.
  • At least 30 graduate semester credits must be taken at the University of Montana.
  • Up to 30 semester masters degree credits, 10 of which may be for thesis, research, or independent study courses, may be applied to the 60 credit requirement.
  • The only required coursework for the Ph.D. program is at least two semesters of WBIO 594 (Graduate Seminar). Additionally, each student should be able to demonstrate, through appropriate coursework, competence in some aspect of 1) theory, 2) applications, and 3) methods. Most students’ coursework will also include appropriate biometry/statistics courses. Additional required coursework will be determined by each student’s graduate committee. These courses will be selected primarily to assist the student in planning, conducting, and writing the dissertation.

Wildlife Biology has no foreign language requirement. Nevertheless, a Graduate Committee may require competence in a foreign language when appropriate for the student’s area of research.

A coursework outline must be presented to, and approved by, the student’s dissertation committee. This should be done prior to the end of the student’s first year in residence. A brief statement followed by the signatures of the committee members will serve as tangible evidence of the committee’s approval of the outline. The committee and student may make reasonable amendments to the coursework outline where appropriate if later evaluation shows that further coursework is needed. Copies of the coursework outline and approval should be placed in the Wildlife Biology Office in the student’s file.

We require at least two semesters teaching experience, usually as a teaching assistant, for each Ph.D. candidate prior to graduation.

Annual Review of Student Progress: Students are required to complete certain tasks by specified deadlines. The Wildlife Biology faculty will evaluate student progress every spring and conduct a follow-up evaluation every fall to judge whether students are making satisfactory progress. In the event that a student has not met a stated deadline, he/she will be warned that he/she is on probation, and will be making satisfactory progress only after completion of the task by a newly stated deadline. If he/she fails to complete the task by the newly stated deadline, he/she will be judged to be making unsatisfactory progress, and is deemed to be ineligible for continued financial support. If the task is still incomplete by the end of the next semester, the student will be dropped from the program.

Dissertation Study Plan: A draft/preliminary study plan including a title, supporting literature, a research outline, and a time schedule for completion shall be submitted to the student’s committee before the end of the student’s first year in residence and prior to initiation of dissertation research. The completed dissertation study plan accompanied by the signed approval of the committee must be submitted to the Graduate Dean by the end of the second year in residence and a minimum of two semesters prior to the date of the expected granting of the degree.

Comprehension Examination Guidelines:

  • At least one month before the beginning of the exam, the student must: o give a copy of these regulations to all examination committee members o convene a committee meeting at which an examination committee chair is selected and examination topics are discussed. The comprehensive examination committee chair is normally a member of the Wildlife Biology Program and the student’s committee, but not the Chair of the student’s committee.
  • At least two days before the beginning of the exam, the examination committee must meet to approve the examination. Given the diversity of faculty in the Wildlife Biology Program, a formal meeting is required to ensure consistency in application of the examination to different students.
  • The written portion of the comprehensive examination will consist of up to 8 hours of open and/or closed book questions from each committee member, at the discretion of each committee member, typically answered by the student over five consecutive days. At least one committee member will ask biologically oriented questions and at least one committee member will ask policy- or management-oriented questions. Most wildlife conservation and management involves biology as well as social/political/legal/economic aspects; the intent here is to ensure that doctoral candidates have been exposed to and have knowledge in both.
  • At least three (and no more than 10) working days after completion of the written examination, the examination committee will meet to evaluate this portion of the examination. If the written portion is acceptable, students will progress to the oral exam. After reading the written responses, the committee may require some or all to be re-written and may postpone for a reasonable time the oral examination.
  • The oral examination explores in depth the areas presented in the written questions, but is not restricted to those areas. The oral examination is restricted to three hours in length. The examination is open to all members of the faculty of The University of Montana, though all except committee members are excused before the vote.
  • Normally, the vote for admission to candidacy will occur at the end of the oral examination. Each examination committee member will rate the student’s performance across both portions of the examination in one of three categories:
    • Pass – No further work is necessary. Student progresses to candidacy.
    • Conditional pass – The examination demonstrates weakness in one area. The student is required to make up for this deficiency before progressing to candidacy. At the examination, the comprehensive examination committee will specify the tasks required for the student to progress to candidacy, and the criteria for evaluating their completion. Typically, students in this category are required to take an additional course or complete additional written work.
    • Fail – The examination may be rescheduled if the student fails, but the Comprehensive Exam Committee retains the right to recommend termination of the student’s program upon majority opinion at any time. After each committee member states their opinion, the committee discusses the vote. At least 75% must vote in favor of a “Pass” or “Conditional pass” or the student has failed the exam.

Upon completing the exam, the student must file a formal application for candidacy with the Graduate School – at least six months before the Ph.D. is to be awarded.

Dissertation Completion: When the student and the advisor feel that the dissertation is ready for final review, a draft copy will be submitted to each member of the dissertation committee. These review copies (with an abstract of no more than 350 words) must be submitted at least five weeks before the date of the final exam. A draft, approved by at least 4 members of the dissertation committee, must be submitted to the Graduate School one week before the defense, and five weeks before the end of the semester. The dissertation must show originality and demonstrate competency in independent scientific inquiry. It must exhibit a mastery of the literature on the subject. It must be lucid, well organized, and written in correct and concise English.

Previously published material will be accepted for satisfying the dissertation requirement if the dissertation committee has authorized early publication of some of the material that appears in the dissertation.

Final Examination: The final examination is an oral exam conducted by the student’s dissertation committee. Without exception, it will be immediately preceded by an open, formal seminar in which the doctoral candidate presents the results of his/her dissertation research. The seminar will present the dissertation and its relationship to the candidate’s field of study. The examination will be no more than three hours in length, will occur during normal semester periods, must be open to the public, and must be given at least four weeks before the end of the academic semester. In exceptional circumstances, the final examination may be taken outside normal semester periods with the approval of the dissertation committee. The date of the exam will be announced to the Graduate Dean at least two weeks prior to the exam. The candidate must receive either a unanimous vote or a vote showing not more than one dissenting member of the total examining committee. If the student fails, or if the dissertation requires major revision, the committee may permit a repeat exam, but this repeat exam may not be given until at least one academic semester has elapsed. The same requirements hold for the re-exam as for the original.

After the final examination, but at least two weeks before commencement, four unbound copies of the approved dissertation and five copies of the abstract must be submitted to the Graduate School. The candidate will sign the necessary publication agreement and pay the cost of binding and microfilm publication. The student is encouraged to have one additional bound copy of the dissertation given to the advisor.